That all changed after I removed the lawn and planted native prairie plants. This year, especially, there have been a surprising number of people that drive up to my property, stop and ask if they can look at my garden or ask if I can identify plants for them. I have not asked, but I think people are more interested in water conserving landscape options after last year’s drought (and the drought that may be shaping up for this year?). Besides that, I think my plants are more interesting than the plants in a typical suburban landscape.
Many of the visitors tracked me down as a result of this blog. (Even readers from Singapore!) Others live nearby or were passing through the neighborhood when the colorful wildflowers that fill my prairie caught their attention. I could make it easier for future visitors to find my prairie by giving my address or at least my street name like Scott at Rhone Street Gardens, but where would be the challenge and fun of the hunt if I made it so easy? I give the city in my blog name, so that should be enough.
Wildflowers are arguably the most important feature of my prairie. Not only because they are attractive, but they provide an oasis for the native wildlife in the lawn desert of my neighborhood. Many varieties of butterflies and bees visit the flowers for nectar. Some butterflies select specific wildflowers to lay their eggs (think of monarchs and milkweed as one example). Wildflowers also attract other insects, which will attract lizards and birds. Birds will also feed on the seed of the dried flowers. And I can’t forget the hummingbirds that drink nectar from many of the flowers. No plastic hummingbird feeders with sugar water are needed here. Every year I “discover” new birds, butterflies, and bees in my prairie garden that I have never seen before. And here I am in the middle of a sterile neighborhood in the ninth largest city in Texas.
This week, May 7 through May 13, is National Wildflower Week. In celebration, here are photos of just a few of the wildflowers blooming in my prairie garden.
Standing on the sidewalk in front of my house and looking to the left, a number of wildflowers are in full bloom. Beginning at the top center are the flower spikes of Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora. These flowers always have a hummingbird nearby, but I have not seen many yet this year. The blue flowers to the right are Mealycup Sage, Salvia farinacea. The larger yellow flowers on the right are a Coreopsis that appeared in the prairie after a two year absence. The smaller and more numerous yellow flowers are Four Nerve Daisy, Tetraneuris scaposa. The Four Nerve bloomed all through the mild winter and need a little dead heading to clean up the dried flowers. Off to the left is Salvia greggii and nearby are several similarly colored Rock Penstemon, Penstemon baccharifolius. Purple Winecup, Callirhoe involucrata, flowers are scattered throughout.
Here is a close up of the Rock Penstemon.
Looking to the right from the same spot on the sidewalk are more wildflowers. Clockwise from the upper left corner is a flower of the Black Sampson or Narrow Leaf Coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia. There are several Coneflower plants just outside the left frame of the photo. Next to the Coneflower is a naturally occurring white seedling of the purple Mealycup Sage. To the lady that is a caretaker of a cemetery in Plano: I forgot to mention that this variety of Mealycup Sage was found growing wild in an unwatered cemetery in Texas on the graves of Henry and Augusta Duelberg. The purple variety is sold as Henry Duelberg Salvia and the white variety is sold as Augusta Duelberg Salvia. If you only plant the purple flowered plant, I think you will eventually have some white flowered plants as well. Continuing on the right side of the photo and in front of the Salvias are more Four Nerve Daisies, the Mexican native Pink Skullcap, Scutellaria suffrutescens, Indian Blanket, Gaillardia pulchella, on the left side of the photo and more Winecup in the center of the photo.
Here is a close up of the Black Sampson Echinacea with an accompanying Painted Lady butterfly.
Here is another shot. I like how the petals gradually get longer as the flower ages and droop down like a hula skirt. My plants came from two different sources. Assuming they were correctly labeled, I have two variations of Black Sampson because the flowers of two plants are almost white, while the flowers of another plant are a darker pink.
Here is a close up of the Mealycup sage with Painted Lady butterfly.
A honeybee collects pollen on an Indian Blanket.
This is American Basket flower, Centaurea americana. I don't have as many plants as I would like because this is an annual and I have to rely on the plants reseeding each year. I only have two plants this year. Birds are supposed to like the seeds.
Asclepias tuberosa is one of three types of native milkweed that I have growing in my prairie. I also have a Mexican milkweed variety. Milkweed is the host plant for the caterpillars of monarch butterflies.
If you let the caterpillars munch on a few leaves, you may be able to observe the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly, as I did this year. Monarchs are never far away when the Gregg's Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, is in bloom. Monarch and Queen butterflies love Gregg's Mistflower.
Horsemint, Monarda citriodora, is another annual wildflower in my prairie. Horsemint is pretty and attracts bees and butterflies, but, unlike the American Basketflower, its numerous seeds sprout everywhere. The extra seedlings are easy to remove and the leaves have an interesting fragrance.
This is a variety of Gaura that I acquired from a vacant lot a couple of years ago. The original plant died after the first season and this new plant appeared nearby two years later.
The flowers of Chocolate Daisy, Berlandiera lyrata, smell like a chocolate perfume. The scent fills the air around the plants on still mornings. An Orange Sulphur butterfly (looks yellow to me) enjoys the nectar of the flowers.
Mexican Hat, Ratibida columnaris, grows large in my garden. Maybe a bit too large. It also reseeds easily. It is also another great bee and butterfly plant.
Aquilegia canadensis, Eastern Red Columbine, is wrapping up its blooming season for the spring.
Meanwhile, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, a fall aster is blooming a few months early. A skipper enjoys the nectar of the flowers.
This is Snake Herb, Dyschoriste linearis. It is the one plant that every visitor to my prairie was most interested in this year. It is drought tolerant groundcover that grows in full sunlight in the parkway between the street and sidewalk. I will share more about this plant in a dedicated post soon.
This is a Question Mark butterfly. One of the many butterflies found in my garden thanks to the wildflowers.